The Mist (2007): Horror / Sci-Fi / Thriller

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When a mist out of nowhere brings with it monsters beyond anyone’s imagination, a diverse group of people in a supermarket must do whatever they can to protect themselves from the monsters or from each other.

Probably an unpopular opinion, but this is one of my favourite Stephen King adaptations. The film cuts right to it when at the same time develops the characters and brilliantly builds up the suspense. And when the mist covers the city and everyone’s trapped in the unknown… that is the calm before the storm. A calm that cuts your breath short only to take it entirely when the storm unleashes, gradually, what is beyond everyone’s imagination. Admittedly, the visual effects are not what they should have been but, please, see past their mediocrity.

The narrative is astonishing. It feels like the world’s schools of thought are gathered in a supermarket and argue realistically as you and I would have if we were stranded, surrounded by such extra-dimensional calamity. Every character in the store is relatable. Love them, loath them, side with them, or mock them… they constitute society as we know it. They form the mob, they become demagogy. See how the tide changes, how easily everyone shows their true colours when the sh*t hits the fan. Where would you stand – or think you would?

Frank Darabond, after masterfully adapting The Shawshank Redemption (1994) and The Green Mile (1999) adapts yet another Stephen King novel, delving into the human nature while toying with the idea of hellish dimensions and man playing God. Thomas Jane, Marcia Gay Harden, Laurie Holden, Andre Braugher, Toby Jones, William Sadler, Jeffrey DeMunn, Melissa McBride, and Alexa Davalos, most of them frequent Darabond collaborators, side with each other or go against one another and offer you an unforgettable thrill.

As I said, stick to the psychological side of it, turn the blind eye to the digital VFX, and place yourself in that supermarket. As for the end, I have written an article on soundtracks and powerful cinematic moments so, feel free to check it out only after watching the film as it gives away the one of a kind Greek-tragic-irony-like twist: http://theworldofapu.com/powerful-sequences-soundtracks/

Stay safe!

Asylums: Factual Mental Illness vs Artistically Deranged Projection

Tonight, I’m interviewing Michelle Satchwell. Michelle, after shedding some new light on why kids are portrayed in certain ways in horror films, is coming back to talk about asylums and their portrayal in favourite, or not so favourite, horrors. The interview takes an interesting turn as she is pointing out that reality can be scarier than fiction as none of us is as free as we think we are. Regardless, the origins of asylums as the, arguably, scariest places a horror film can take place at is explained and so is the believability behind their projection.

Mental Health Act 1983 where people can be sectioned as “danger to self or others”.

Marie Jahoda (1958) “Ideal Mental Health” including six criteria; autonomy, self-actualisation, positive attitude to self, resistance to stress, accurate perception of reality, and environmental mastery.

Ethical guidelines originated from Nuremberg code (1947), later developed by the American Psychiatric Association (APA) and the British Psychological Society (BPS).

R.D Laing (1965) created a “safe heaven” for patients with Schizophrenia. This has been made into a film; Mad To Be Normal (2017). 

Rosenhan (1973) carried out three experiments titled; ‘Insane in sane places’ of pseudo patients being diagnosed with Schizophrenia.

Both Laing and Rosenhan were part of the 1970s anti-psychiatry movement.

Thomas Szasz questions how mental health is defined and how it’s been ‘constructed’. In 1961, this was published as the “Myth of Mental Illness”. Then in 2011, released the “Myth of Mental Illness”, Revised 50 years later.

Valentine Douglas (2016) The CIA as organised crime. This covers “Project MK Ultra”.

Weindling (2016) looked at victims and survivors of Nazi human experiments.

Ken Kesey author of One flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest claims to have received LSD as part of CIA study as a student; https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.telegraph.co.uk/tv/2020/09/23/cia-took-lsd-twisted-experiments-inspired-ratched/amp/

The World Health Organisation (1977) said “no culture is free from Schizophrenia”.
Shamanism and Schizophrenia similarities.

Taijin Kyofusho (TKS) as a Japanese culture bound phobia.

Individualist (independent) Western cultures versus Collectivist (interdependent) Eastern cultures can affect diagnoses and disorders. 

Homophobia was seen as a mental health issue up until 1972 and DSM II edition (Diagnostic Statistical Manual reviewed by the APA). The depathologising of homosexuality; https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4695779/

International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11) was published in May 2019 and is used by the WHO in the UK and Europe. The Diagnostic Statistical Manual (DSM 5) published in May 2013 is used by the APA in America.

1 in 4 adults with Mental Health and 1 in 10 young people according to NHS and mental health charities; www.mind.org.ukwww.time-to-change.org.ukwww.rethink.org.uk

1 in 8 young people in the UK with a mental health issue, found in research from MHCYP (Mental Health in Children and Young People) published by NHS in 2017. https://digital.nhs.uk/data-and-information/publications/statistical/mental-health-of-children-and-young-people-in-england/2017/2017

P.T Barnum of Greatest Showman fame would parade “oddities” one such case was that of Phineas Gage who had a metal rod through his frontal lobe and his personality changed. https://www.timeout.com/newyork/things-to-do/the-curious-case-of-phineas-gage

Trepanning refers to drilling holes in the skull to release demons. http://www.bbc.co.uk/earth/story/20160826-why-our-ancestors-drilled-holes-in-each-others-skulls

Extra sensory perception (ESP) usually conducts ‘bad science’ also known as ‘pseudo science’ https://thepsychologist.bps.org.uk/volume-22/edition-7/extra-sensory-perception-controversial-debate

White Knight and Savior Complex; https://www.psychologytoday.com/gb/blog/the-white-knight-syndrome

Why are we fascinated by women who kill; https://www.theguardian.com/books/2019/jul/20/women-who-kill-female-murderers-killing-eve

Parsons (Functionalist) suggested youth is a time for storm and stress. Eisenstadt (Functionalist) saw youth as a time to let off steam. 

Rogers Client Centred Therapy uses unconditional positive regard; https://www.psychologytoday.com/gb/therapy-types/person-centered-therapy. Uses positive psychology see www.actionforhappiness.co.uk

BBC Mental a History of the Madhouse, available here; https://youtu.be/oswUssXzFlY

“Time to Talk” day in February and World Mental Health Awareness in October celebrate diversity and try to remove stigma. #HelloYellow campaign for young people to promote positive mental health.

Powerful Sequences, Defining Soundtracks

“The World of Apu” is a bimonthly, diverse, and multilingual online film magazine which explores film cultures from around the world.

Below you can find my analysis on soundtracks that have played a catalytic role in constructing powerful cinematic sequences. Some are well known, some not so much, and others, potentially unnoticeable to the vast majority.

Stay safe!

My Blueberry Nights (2007): Drama / Romance

A heartbroken young woman leaves everything behind her and goes on a journey across America in search of finding herself.

I was waiting for the whole year to write about this film. Almost no one knows about My Blueberry Nights and it saddens me.

Like a modern Odysseus, Elizabeth sets off for a journey of self-discovery where every stop is an experience and every encounter a new turning point in her life. That’s why with every “Ithaca”, what matters is not the destination but the journey itself.

First feature English-language film for director Wong Kar-Wai, and feature debut for Norah Jones who was the only option for the leading role in the director’s mind. Jude Law makes an excellent addition to the cast and the chemistry between him and Jones is fascinating. Rachel Weisz, David Strathairn, and Natalie Portman complete the A-list cast of this unknown indie that, if you are not aware of it, it will make you ask yourselves how come you didn’t. Based on a short film that was made by Wong Kar-Wai in the beginning of his career, My Blueberry Nights is a pilgrimage of life, exploring our life’s decisions, our choices, and the way we let fear control both. Furthermore, redemption and find actual meaning and trust in people that are truly worth it and move us forward in life will leave a sweet taste in your mouth, almost as sweet as that long-anticipating for the denouement blueberry pie.

Thirteen years ago, in New Year’s Eve, I watched My Blueberry Nights at the cinema’s last screening of the day, with the girl working there. My last film of 2007. My last film review of 2020.

Stay safe and Happy New Year!!!

Sweet November (2001): Drama / Romance

A self-absorbed workaholic runs into a woman that her proposal will ultimately change his life.

Meet Nelson Moss! America’s typical self-aggrandizing yuppie asshole you wish he didn’t breathe the same air that you do. Well, don’t cast your stones just yet, Sara Deever is here. She comes into his life like an angel and, against all odds, sets the wheels of metamorphosis in motion.

Keanu Reeves, somewhere between The Matrix installments, gives a very convincing performance as that dude you wish you never become in your life and Charlize Theron is that angel you hope you one day meet. Now, here’s a fact: Sweet November, the remake of the homonymous 1968 film, got three nominations: worst actor, worst actress, and worst remake or sequel. John Wilson, the founder of the Razzie awards, lists the film as one of the 100 most enjoyable bad movies ever made.

Two things save the film. Firstly, the Keanu/Charlize chemistry; they were amazing in The Devil’s Advocate (1997) and they are very enjoyable here. By the way, Jason Isaacs is pretty awesome. Secondly, the film’s honest message: Seize the day, and make the most out of your life. Contrary to popular belief, life is a lot shorter than we think. But it can be sweet. That depends on the choices we decide to make.

No filmmaking technique stands out really and the story is quite flawed but, hey, watch it around this time of the year and forget about film theory for a couple of hours. It’s New Year’s Eve. Drink it in while thinking about your new year’s resolutions.

Stay safe!

Click (2006): Comedy / Drama / Fantasy

An ambitious architect who thinks that everything is an obstacle to his success finds a remote that, allegedly, can solve all of his problems.

Honestly, I never thought this would be one of my favourite comedy/dramas – especially with Adam Sandler in it. But the story resonated with me for more than one reason. Let me get the pleasantries out of the way though.

Adam Sandler is funny, he is made for roles like these. The exaggerated tragicomedy surrounding a remote that controls your life could be a bunch of different films in the hands of different writers. Steve Koren and Mark O’Keefe wrote a condensed comedy (for the first part) about a guy who just wants to succeed in life as he had enough looking at the greener grass next to him. He finds this remote and, as probably most of us, uses it exactly as a child would. With Sandler always being a man-child, it is guaranteed that the remote’s uses will be definitely inappropriate. Changing colour of himself or the shape of others, muting them, dubbing them in different languages, and so much more, deems Click, admittedly, a funny comedy. Until it turns into drama…

The dire long-term effects of the remote’s use are seen halfway into the film and the realisation of what has happened, is happening, and will be happening from that point on is also the unfortunate time of one’s life where they realise that… Time. Does. Not. Go. Back. No matter how hard we wish it did, it does not. Click is paying close attention to that fact and sugarcoats it with humour but still manages to make your eyes wet. I’ve written some mediocre reviews on other Sandler films, but in this instance he is good. The balance between comedy and drama is maintained very well by director Frank Coraci in the second part of the second act and hits you a bit harder than you expected as you never saw it coming when you initially put the film on.

Regarding the rest of the cast, Kate Beckinsale brightens up every shot she’s in, David Hasselhoff is hilarious, Julie Kavner is amazing, and Henry Winkler deserves a special reference. The sequence where he looks at Sandler and says: “I love you son” and then turns around to leave, is a tearjerker. If you think otherwise, you are not human. Winkler significantly contributes to the dramatisation of the film and his performance is out of this world.

Oh, you also get the film’s full force for another reason. Michael Newman (Sandler) reminds you of you. Reminds you of these times you said: “Can’t wait to be done with this…”, “Can’t wait for this project to end…”, “Can’t wait to finish…”. Newman is all of us who don’t appreciate the present, the today, the “now”. Newman represents all of us who don’t appreciate the beautiful person next to us, the fact that we and our people are in good health, and how much “love” can enrich us with everything money or fame can’t. Careful what you wish for…

Stay safe!

P.S. As per IMDb, R.L. Stine, in 1995, in his “Tales To Give You Goosebumps” wrote something similar and almost sued Sandler for plagiarism but it was all considered in the end… a coincidence. After all, they could both be based on the old French tale, “The Magic Thread”.

Elf (2003): Adventure / Comedy / Family

Raised by elves, one day, a man realises he belongs to the humans’ world and goes to New York on a quest to find his real father.

Elf is the huge box office Christmas success that offered a lot of smiles. First leading role for Will Ferrell, who does what Will Ferrel does best in a comedy. He is really funny to be fair, it’s just Elf is not really my cup of tea. I know that Christmas films are meant to be implausible, cliched, and “tacky” but a man acting… the way he does, finding a girl like this, single, who falls in love with him, and with a dad like this who just manages to love him back… I know, it’s a Christmas comedy/fantasy but maybe not for my age or, simply, not for me.

Jon Favreau’s tributes to It’s a Wonderful Life (1946) are very obvious and understood – see, that’s an amazing Christmas film (the best of all time) – but I prefer other films of him from before and after the MCU or the Star Wars spinoff. Until Elf, he was a great indie yet, unknown director. At least, the film opened a lot of doors for him, making one of the biggest grossing directors of all time. Admittedly, Zooey Deschanel, James Caan and Mary Steenburgen are very much enjoyable so, it’s just maybe not particularly liking it.

By all means, please do enjoy it. If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a thousand times. We all need a good laugh these days. It’s been pretty miserable and depressing out there so, Elf, will do nothing but cheer you up with its silliness.

Stay safe!

Superhero Movie (2008): Action / Comedy / Sci-Fi

A low self-esteemed and constantly bullied teenager gets bitten by a radioactive dragonfly and develops superpowers.

There are two reasons why I watched it… again. Leslie Nielsen, and the Aunt Lucille farting sequence! Other than that, what can I say? It is an hour and fifteen minutes of that kind of humour that was washed up even twelves years ago. I think it is the first time that I tried to analyse what makes it funny – if written and executed properly. That kind of humour has several components. It requires:

  • Some pre-existing knowledge on the films been parodied,
  • Exaggerated and utterly disjointed scenes,
  • The heroes’ reactions to the superfluous, anecdotal stimuli causing the disjointed scenes, but their immediate forgetfulness straight after until something else happens.

I was not planning to make a review, and if I’m being honest, I haven’t really. I just wanted to put in my two cents about the particular comedy sub-genre. I wish there was something else to say, really. Even though it’s silly, to say the least, a couple of sequences will make you laugh – such as the Aunt Lucille farting sequence! And, hey, we do need some laugh. Especially, these days.

Stay safe!

The Psychology of Horror: Preparedness and Purpose

Tonight, I’m interviewing Dr. Mathias Clasen. Mathias, among other things, is Associate Professor at Aarhus University, teaching at the School of Communication and Culture, director of Recreational Fear Lab, and Associate Editor of Evolutionary Studies in Imaginative Culture. Literary Darwinism, Gothic, Horror, Science Fiction, Fantasy, Apocalyptic and Post-apocalyptic Texts, but also Cognitive and Evolutionary Theory are only but a few of the research areas he specialises in. Tonight, he is talking to me about a very interesting research of his on the pandemic and horror films but also explains what it is that attracts us to the genre.

https://pure.au.dk/portal/en/engmc@hum.au.dk

https://au.academia.edu/MathiasClasen

http://horror.dk/mathias/

https://esiculture.com/

Primer (2004): Drama / Sci-Fi / Thriller

Four friends, in an attempt to be innovative, invent something beyond their wildest dreams.

I remember watching Primer coming out of the army. As much as I was into films, I couldn’t “read” them the way I do now and, of course, the physics behind it meant nothing to me then and, respectively, without asking much, I accept it now. Consequently, I cannot comment on it, but I can speak of the filmmaking itself.

The voice over indicates that what we are watching has already happened and, for some reason, their story is worth telling, even though the first act indicates the opposite. So far, it looks like a mockumentary on a bunch of guys who are working on something that even they don’t know what it is. Much less the viewer.

Half an hour into it, the first plot point comes in strong. Both the main characters but also the viewer are now aware that they have invented a time machine. Narrative-wise, I will not reveal anything else. What has already been established is that composer / actor / sound designer / editor / producer / writer / director Shane Carruth, since the opening sequence, has remained meticulous with his writing on both character and story development. By the way, I have never seen anyone taking on so many different roles. Anyway…

What would you do if you knew you could travel in time? What would your thoughts be? What would you be afraid of? What would your reservations be? How far back would you go? Would you acknowledge causality’s dangers? Carruth does an amazing job perplexing even further his low budget’s sci-fi narrative and, at the same time, he maintains the dialogue more realistic than any of could develop it.

I do not understand certain people’s choices. Why isn’t Carruth a household name? Why show so much talent and then let go? Just do another film ten years later and that’s it? I know he struggled but the guy managed to make Primer with… $7,000. This is the most impressive and tiniest nano-budget mind-bending feature ever existed.

Ultimately, I am convinced that the film itself is greater achievement than its invention.